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Proposed pet sale bans hamper human-animal relationships

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Assembly Bill 485 would ban the sales of cats, dogs and rabbits in retail pet stores in California. (Courtesy photo)
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For decades, California has been America’s leader in care for the downtrodden and unprivileged. This isn’t limited to humans: California’s pet breeder and pet store laws are some of the best in the nation, designed to stop illegal breeding operations from getting a foothold in the state. The state oversees a comprehensive regulatory regime that dovetails with federal laws to ensure that healthy pets are being placed in loving homes.

Regretfully, well-meaning but misguided activists are set to undermine these pet and consumer protections. The Assembly Appropriations Committee is considering Assembly Bill 485, which would ban the sales of cats, dogs and rabbits across the state. Advertised as an effort to stop unethical breeders, AB 485 will, in fact, worsen pet care across the Golden State.

The most obvious flaw in AB 485 is the idea that stopping retail sales stops bad actors. Pet stores are California’s most highly regulated source of cats and dogs, but nationwide stores provide just five percent of America’s dogs, and even fewer of the nation’s cats. They do, however, fill an important niche by providing companion animals that fit specific lifestyle and health needs.

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Targeting a small source of pets that is already the most regulated, and which provides specialized pets to pet lovers, is a poor use of taxpayer resources. Furthermore, without pet stores, prospective pet owners will be forced to look elsewhere for a specific companion animal — including, possibly, to substandard and illegal breeders.

The current rules governing pet stores are appropriately substantial, for both animal and human protection. AB 485 will change that for the worse. For example, California’s regulations obligate warranty, transparency and health considerations before a store can place cat or dog in a loving home. These measures are in addition to federal standards, which allow only regulated commercial breeders and small hobby breeders to send dogs and cats to pet stores. Removing pet stores from the companion animal equation means the state’s warranty provision will be unenforceable, making consumers liable for significant financial costs resulting from hereditary and communicable health concerns that are not their fault.

AB 485’s narrow focus on pet stores won’t just send pet lovers to illegal mills. Shelters and rescues face almost no regulation from the state of California, even though they provide a much higher proportion of California’s cats and dogs with loving homes. Because they frequently take in pets that have been abandoned and/or abused, or otherwise have few or no records, rescues and shelters need to be vigilant about pet treatment. This protects both animals and their prospective owners, as shelters are not required to provide warranties when animals are adopted out. Regretfully, a California rescue and a city-operated shelter were recently busted engaging in substandard practices and abuse of dozens of animals.

The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council is eager to work with state lawmakers to makes sure pets are always treated well, no matter where their journey to a loving home begins. Regretfully, misguided support for pet sale bans in Sacramento, Los Angeles and elsewhere in California treats the responsible pet industry’s Golden State members as opponents rather than partners in pet care. State and city lawmakers should take the responsible pet trade up on our desire to be collaborators in protecting pets and consumers.

Mike Bober is president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

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